November 2012

The know zone

  • Warning signs
    Schools and colleges owe a duty of care to pupils and the wider public and could be held liable where damage is caused to a person or property by their actions or failures. Richard Bird explains. More
  • Energy crisis
    Exhausted teachers donít make for good teachers. As funding gets tighter and pupil-teacher ratios increase, schools need to help staff lighten their load, says Sam Ellis. More
  • Lead vocals
    Quotes from Mark Twain, Aaron Levenstein, WIE Gates, Louis Brandeis More
  • The Write Stuff
    Alistair Macnaughton, 53, has been head of The Kingís School, Gloucester, for five years. A former arts journalist, his previous posts include director of theatre at Charterhouse School and second master at Kingís School, Worcester. More
  • Political insight
    Parliamentís Education Service aims to inform, engage and empower young people to understand and get involved in Parliament, politics and democracy. More
  • Clean bill of health?
    Nearly half of ASCL members say that preparing for inspection is one of their top concerns. Here, leaders share their views on whether the latest inspection reforms, especially short notice and the focus on teaching quality, have made inspection more or less fit for purpose? More
  • Adding value was one of the big stars of the road this summer, providing roadside assistance to members on their way to be part of the Olympics, off on their holiday or even something as simple as taking the kids to school or driving to work. More
  • Leaders Surgery
    Teachers' Standards advice and Advice on allegations against teachers More
  • Shifting sands...
    With flawed data being used in this yearís performance tables and by Ofsted inspectors, exam results being kept artifficially low, and the huge inconsistencies in GCSE marking, how do schools and colleges measure improvement? How do parents and governors? Is it now time to take matters into our own hands, asks Brian Lightman? More
  • Layered Cake
    Most people have an idea of what to expect when becoming a headteacher, but there are many aspects of the role that simply only experience will reveal as Geoff Barton explains. More
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The Write Stuff

Alistair Macnaughton, 53, has been head of The Kingís School, Gloucester, for five years. A former arts journalist, his previous posts include director of theatre at Charterhouse School and second master at Kingís School, Worcester.

What kind of pupil were you?
I was quite diffcult, challenging and rebellious. For example, I refused to be a senior prefect because I thought I would lose credibility among my peer group. I was so egotistical that I thought I was destined for some extraordinary career Ė a writer or actor Ė I'm embarrassed to say. Teaching was the last thing on my mind.

Do you miss the cut-and-thrust of journalism?
Not really but I still enjoy writing for the TES and other publications and I blog, so the ability to write comes in handy. As a journalist, youíre under pressure and the same is true for a head. You also need people skills for both roles.

You went straight from journalism Ė one of the least-respected professions Ė to teaching which, comparatively, is one step from sainthood. Didnít you think of advancing in stages . . . a stint, perhaps, in estate agency or used car sales?
Candidly, I changed because I wasnít earning enough; I thought I might need something a little more stable, income-wise, if I was to marry and have kids. Iím not PGCE trained so I originally wrote off to a number of independent schools and said, "gis a job". Fortunately, I was offered a post at Sherborne.

Would you recommend journalism as a profession to your pupils?
Yes, I would. Itís a hard job, particularly if you are freelance. Besides working on The Scotsman, I used to do theatre and book reviewing for Radio Forth in Edinburgh. I was taking work where I could find it and it was quite tough. But all the time, I was learning about writing and how to get to the gist of something fast. When I was at school, I remember I had a very florid prose style, full of juicy descriptions. As a journalist, you do learn to prune things back a bit.

And would you recommend teaching to them?
Again, I definitely would. In spite of the difficulties that come with the profession, I still think itís an admirable one, although you do still have to endure a certain amount from non-teachers thinking youíre having a whale of a time in long holidays. Journalists arenít perceived brilliantly, for that matter; a belief that youíre just a layabout in the pub goes with the territory, for sure.

Do you have a teaching hero?
Yes; I wasnít a very bright child academically but English really caught fire when it was taught by a teacher called Roger Sylvester. He had a real passion for Shakespeare and used to rant out large sections of the plays by himself. Some might have thought this was very self-indulgent, but I thought it was magical.

What is it about cathedral schools? Are you a frustrated chorister?
I love music but Iím not musical and I donít play an instrument. I sing, but itís a bit of an endurance feat to stand beside me while I do.

  • Interview by John Holt and Julie Nightingale


Do you know an ASCL member with an unusual story, interesting background or exceptional achievement to share? If youíd like to recommend someone else or yourself to appear in a future profile, email